The Suicide Squad is one of the best movies of 2021, one of the best comic book movies of the last several years, and one of the best movies based on DC Comics of the last decade of their attempted construction of a shared movie universe. Director James Gunn is in his best form, tongue planted firmly in cheek, serving up ridiculous violence layered with humor and pathos. It’s clear that this is where DC should be going with its films: finding hungry filmmakers with a specific take on their properties, and then letting them go wild.
Although really I’m not convinced James Gunn wrote and directed this, or much moreso that “James Gunn” is not actually three kids in a trenchcoat. This movie is ridiculous, violent, and hilarious in all the right ways. It also proves the adage that we shouldn’t be remaking good movies, we should be remaking bad movies (like David Ayers’ Suicide Sqaud) and taking good elements from them.
Because those do exist. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn continues to be amazing, playing incredibly well in this ensemble even with her own specific character arc. And Viola Davis as Amanda Waller is everything we want her to be and more. A scene between her and Idris Elba is a master class by two actors bringing all of the gravitas possible to set the personal stakes for this silly violent comic book movie that is The Suicide Squad.
Gunn also embraces the silliness of the premise. With a team of truly expendable anti-heroes, how do you make us care about each of these people, set up their stakes, and then let us laugh at so many ridiculous deaths. But this is the magic of James Gunn: he makes us care about Ratcatcher. And not just Ratcatcher, but technically Ratcatcher 2. And Polka Dot Man. And he makes their silly powers something not to underestimate.
But the film also smartly anchors us around Idris Elba‘s Bloodsport and John Cena‘s Peacemaker, whose chemistry is great and whose competition over who is better using very similar power sets is quite enjoyable. And a truly spot-on performance by Sylvester Stallone as King Shark is absolutely everything we want it to be.
While The Suicide Squad is 90% ham and cheese and blood and gore, there’s also a surprising amount of pathos. Between this and Guardians of the Galaxy 2, I have to wonder if Gunn doesn’t have some unresolved daddy issues. Or? It’s just an easy way to motivate characters. But so much of this is about intergenerational trauma. It’s also stealth feminist and puts a diverse cast of characters at the forefront. The women of this movie kick all sorts of ass, but are also flawed where they need to be. It’s refreshing because it’s usually not something we get in our movies, much less our comic book movies.
The Suicide Squad as a movie is just bonkers. It’s not even worth trying to explain the plot, because that’s not what’s important or impressive here. Here’s what is worth watching this movie for. Harley Quinn’s spree of violence set to “I’m Just a Gigolo”. A fight scene with large sections shot from the perspective of the reflection of Peacemaker’s helmet. So. many. character deaths. Caring about Polka Dot Man and Ratcatcher 2. King Shark being hilarious.
And yes, stay though the credits. There’s a final scene that sets up the John Cena Peacemaker series coming exclusively to HBO Max.
And that’s my ultimate recommendation: as much fun as this would be to go see on a giant screen with an audience and popcorn (and it’s probably the most theater-experience-y movie that has come out so far), the Delta variant of COVID is nothing to mess with. Watching this on HBO Max is going to be perfectly adequate for most people. Or? Make sure if you are going to a theater to go to one that is mostly empty, wear a mask, wash your hands, etc, etc. You don’t want to become a part of the Suicide Squad by catching a potentially deadly disease.
But go watch this movie. Enjoy it. While the squeamish should not check this out, those who enjoy the ridiculous and violent will find this a perfect summer treat.
4 out of 5 stars